Scott Holstad's Reviews > The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House

The Survivor by John F.  Harris
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did not like it
bookshelves: didn-t-finish

I hate this book and I despise the author. I couldn't believe, when looking through the Goodreads reviews, how many people call this book "balanced." I think it's anything but. I think it's a hatchet job on a great man, Bill Clinton, my favorite president of all time. I admit to being biased, but I've read several Clinton books and none were as unflattering as this one. I couldn't even finish it! I couldn't even get past the second chapter! Virtually every page is stocked with loaded language designed to make the reader look down on Clinton (and his wife). Examples:

Page X: He talks about Clinton's "capacity for drama" and his "usual ... swirling cloud of last-minute chaos and indecision."

Page XI: "Hillary Rodham Clinton ... hovered over the proceedings with the discerning eye of the corporate lawyer she was." Harris makes her out to be a Dick Cheney-like character.

Page XII: In discussing Paul Begala's first meeting with Clinton, Harris writes "In his crush, however, he kept enough detachment to contemplate that the session had been a put-on, and what seemed like a wonderfully guileless performance actually had been a more sophisticated brand of artifice."

Pages XIV and XV: In describing Clinton's politics as "defensive" and his knowledge of this a very conscious one, Harris writes "Certainly he understood, with occasional remedial courses required...." Like he's stupid.... Later, his (Arkansas) opponent "portrayed him, not unfairly, as an arrogant and unseasoned young man who was out of step with his constituents." Harris goes on to talk some more about Clinton's alleged "women problem." It makes me ill.


On page XVI, Clinton is described as "maddeningly noncommittal."

On page XVII, Harris really goes for it. He plunges right in by writing, "his marriage to Hillary Clinton was said to be in turmoil.... He was a man of vagrant sexual appetites. Every political operative or journalist with even a passing knowledge of Clinton knew it." What a crock! Even with all of the right wing-founded rumors about Clinton's alleged infidelities, the only one that ever had any proof associated with in was the Monica scandal. In his book, My Life, Clinton denies any involvement with Flowers or Jones and I believe him. There's no proof anywhere. This author is stooping to tabloid journalism by bringing it up in the introduction!

On page XVIII, he "bristled over the scrutiny," while somehow showing "indifference to the rumors." Contradict yourself much, Harris?

The author then goes on to deride Clinton's intelligence by writing that Hillary "was his equal or superior in intelligence" and he talks about their marriage as a "partnership" and not one based on love. Does this guy have a bone to pick or what?

On page XX!, Harris writes "Traits that would be regarded as emotionally unhealthy by conventional standards -- a desperate need for human contact, or a heedlessness about persona risk -- were in Clinton's case political assets of great utility." Later, on his intelligence again: "Yes, he was smart, but no smarter than many other politicians of his generation." Seriously? Every book I've ever read about Clinton, right or left, has lauded his intelligence! The man is brilliant. Holy crap -- who does this Harris guy think he is? What an asshole!

Harris shows Clinton plotting left and right while being naive at the same time. Honestly, I can't read this book without getting violently angry. I made it to page 12 and that's the furthest I'm going. I had high hopes for this book because of good reviews, but I'm sorry I wasted good -- and a lot of -- money on this stupid book. Definitely not recommended for anyone who admires the Clintons.

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Reading Progress

June 12, 2012 – Shelved
February 19, 2013 – Started Reading
February 20, 2013 – Shelved as: didn-t-finish
February 20, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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message 1: by Randle (last edited Sep 04, 2014 11:57PM) (new)

Randle Scott,
I have read 10 books about the Clinton presidency: Truth To Tell, The Natural, All Too Human, The Breach, Partners In Power, War In a Time of Peace, The Seduction of Hillary Rodham, Hillary's Choice, The Case for Hillary Clinton, and The Survivor. As much as I am profoundly disappointed in him (can you imagine how highly regarded he would be without the Monica scandal?) I am a fan.
As others did, I found The Survivor to be a balanced depiction of him and his presidency. I purposely did Not read his autobiography (the reviews of it confirmed to me why I did not read it) and do not plan to. Still, I think, as you do, that he is a great man, as complicated and flawed as he is, as we all are.


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